Senate passes Real ID bill with amendments

The Louisiana Senate approved legislation Tuesday that would put Louisiana in compliance with federal rules aimed at combating terrorism.

But before passing House Bill 907 on a vote of 21 to 16, the Senate passed amendments, which would require the legislation to return to the House for consideration of changes. It takes 20 votes to pass a bill in the state Senate.

The session adjourns Monday at 6 p.m.

House Bill 907 would give the state’s residents the option of getting a Real ID, which standardizes and authenticates driver’s licenses and other identification cards. Beginning in January 2016 anyone wishing to easily board an airplane or enter a federal facility would need identification compliant with the federal Real ID program.

Not holding a federally compliant identification won’t necessarily keep travelers off airplanes, but it could cause travel delay while federal authorities attempt to ensure the identity of the person through other means.

Louisiana is one of 16 states not in compliance with federal Real ID standards.

Lingering issues include a gold star on identification cards and procedures to scan and photograph the bearer immediately upon entering a driver’s license bureau. “I do not trust the federal government,” said state Sen. Jonathan Perry, R-Kaplan. Current law already requires scanning of several identification documents, such as birth certificates and social security documents. Federal authorities require the state to keep copies of the scanned documents.

“I feel like we need it,” said state Sen. Francis Thompson, D-Delhi. “It is an option only, so we don’t have to do anything we don’t want to.”

Under HB907 drivers seeking licenses will be asked if they want their license to comply with Real ID. Regardless of their decision, drivers still will have to produce a birth certificate and other documentation under the requirements of other state law.

The state will maintain a database that contains the scanned documents that will not be connected or linked to any other database. The bill also penalizes anyone accessing or releasing the data with up to six months in jail for each offense.

The federal government developed the procedures after the 9-11 attack to better identify airline passengers before they board planes and visitors before they enter federal facilities and nuclear power plants before enter.

But the new procedures are unpopular in some quarters as critics question the need for the federal government to require such information of citizens.

“None of us like this, but your fight is with Congress,” said State Sen. Robert Adley, R-Benton, who handled the legislation in the Senate. His stepmother emailed his Senate colleagues and wrote letters to the editor in newspapers condemning the bill.